Naturally dyed silk ribbon and wedding dress collaboration with beautiful Cornish Camellias

This glorious shoot took place on a very cold March day several years ago, in and around my home in Cornwall and the studio and growing garden of The Garden Gate Flower Company. In a true artisan collaboration, the beautiful team followed the making of a wedding gown right from the dyeing of the organic silks (with matching silk ribbons, of course!), through the creation of a bespoke dress and a final styled shoot on an iconic Cornish beach, with stellar photogapher Taylor & Porter with glorious wedding bouquet by The Garden Gate Flower Company.

The desire to take forward my family heritage in the textile industry with an ethical heart is what drives me at Lancaster & Cornish. Textiles are in my blood. Starting with my Great-Grandparents cotton weaving in the Lancashire Mills of north-west England, the story continues into the 1900’s with my Grandad, David Lancaster, selling textiles from around the globe.  

Photography: Taylor & Porter

Location and Flowers: The Garden Gate Flower Company

Jewellery: Mirri Damer

Dress: Claire L Headdon Bridal Design

Lady looking at pink camellias

 I work with natural dyes, foraged and gathered where possible from the beautiful Cornish countryside that surrounds me.  Our palette of colours, developed in my Cornwall Studio, evolves with and responds to the seasons. However I am also a pragmatist, keen to see natural dyes embraced more in to the mainstream fashion world, so I also use of extracts and ground plant matter in our commercial work, mindful of our clients desire for repeatable colours.  

Two spools of plant dyed silk ribbon in shades of pale pink and grey displayed on table

 Making and dyeing by hand allows us to forge a connection to nature and to the client, creating meaningful pieces that may be passed from generation to generation.

I chose to dye with Camellias as they are, for me, all about Cornwall. Victorian plant hunters brought seeds of new species over from the Far East in the early 20th century to Caerhays Castle near where I live and, aided by the mild climate, these beautiful plants thrive in Cornish gardens today.  The camellia blooms for this project were picked on a cold March morning from a large private garden at the top of a wooded lane above our house.  It was a wonderful moment to return to the studio with a huge trug of deep pink flowers, anticipation growing for the final result.

 View of cliff top looking down onto Cornish sea and headland

Dyeing 20 metres of beautiful organic silk from Claire L. Headdon was nerve-wracking. Working with the largest vat of camellias I have ever used, I was so excited to see the beautiful soft colours emerge, before finding somewhere to dry the fabric naturally (a challenge in the English climate at the best of times). The fabric is then ironed before preparing to pass on to Claire.

The sea and the remote ancient settled moorlands give the landscape a special quality that isn’t found elsewhere in the UK. Cornwall is full of creative individuals, inspired by the land we live in and the need to create our own path. We are less tied to the high pressure unsustainable fashion industry down here in the south west, and that gives us a certain freedom of expression.

Model in soft pink bridal dress walking along sand towards the sea

 Often when I have finished a piece, whether a ribbon or a table runner, and in particular with this project, I find it hard to let the piece go.  Through working with natural materials, you develops an affinity with the fabric, a sense of ownership, a piece of invisible thread that runs from nature to artisan to the final client. Somehow the fabric becomes imbued with meaning, and sense of place. There is a joy of working with creative, like-minded individuals, businesses and clients that cannot be replicated on the high street.

  Natural dyes seem to change with the light and are not harsh colours like commercial dyes. Buying from artisans is ultimately more satisfying – you are getting an heirloom piece and something to treasure long after the wedding or event is over. Many of my clients report back that they keep their silk ribbons after the wedding as a special keepsake, where perhaps if they were mass produced they wouldn’t feel so special.